Most people that run their own firms combine client work with the day-to-day management of it. Clients often have unexpected requirements and, as the lifeblood of the business, the natural thing to do is to give them priority. However, that may mean the management of your employees takes a back seat. It is important not to let this happen.
When you do sit down with colleagues to talk about their work, is it on a planned or informal basis? Quite understandably it is all too often “on the hop”. But doing it in the car on the way to or from a client meeting or over a beer down the local just does not cut it.
There are ground rules worth keeping in mind for when holding one-to-one meetings with employees:
1: Put the dates (typically monthly) in the diary for the next 12 months so that there is a firm schedule. This shows your commitment to the employee and ensures you are both not left rushed trying to find space last minute.
2: Agree the format. For example, do you want the employee to come with an agenda or report progress in a particular way? Provide a framework and set expectations.
3: Ensure the meeting is focused. One way to do this is to be clear how long you expect it to last. It should typically last no more than 45 minutes to an hour. Anything longer is unlikely to be effective for either of you.
4: Take the time to enquire as to whether things are OK outside work and be alert to any personal issues that may be affecting performance.
5: Record action points. Extensive notes will not be necessary in most cases but it should be agreed what needs to be done before the next meeting.
6: Set an expectation that the employee should come with suggested solutions to any issues and know they are generally responsible for the resulting actions rather than you.
7: Set an expectation that these meetings should start on time and are not to be interrupted or curtailed without good reason.
8: If a scheduled meeting has to be postponed, re-arrange without delay.
9: Ask open questions. Make a point of listening to ensure both you and your employee get the most from the meeting.
10: Actively encourage employees to come up with ideas about how they can help improve what they do and how they do it. This will make them realise they have a voice in helping to improve the performance of the business.
Apart from these ground rules being good management practice, they are also likely to help improve the performance of employees. What is more, they will help identify any issues employees have early on before they affect performance.
How many times have you heard someone say words to the effect of: “I didn’t know there were issues” or “They didn’t tell me”? This is often the outcome of no process being in place to regularly meet, manage and motivate. We all know how costly it is to replace good employees. Managing them effectively helps reduce the risk of this needing to happen.
Roderic Rennison is director of The Ideas Lab